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Auburn vs Vanderbilt Opponent Q&A With Anchor of Gold

We spoke with Christian D'Andrea of Anchor of Gold about this weekend's game against Vanderbilt. As always, I'll link to their post with my answers for them when it's up.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
My answers to them are up, now! Go check them out.

1) Vandy's defense has been quite impressive this season. Zach Cunningham is one of the best linebackers in the SEC, but he can't do everything on his own. Who are the other stars on that defense Auburn fans should know about?

Torren McGaster is an oft-overlooked piece of this defense. He's solid in zone coverage and a strong enough cornerback that he can be left on an island in man coverage. Oren Burks is a versatile linebacker who hits hard and can fill in as a strong safety in Derek Mason's defense. Ryan White has developed into a potential all-SEC safety thanks to his ability to cover ground in coverage and make plays near the line of scrimmage when needed. And Adam Butler is a big, experienced defensive lineman who can consistently drive blockers backward and make plays in the backfield.

2) While the defense has been excellent, the offense has struggled to put a lot of points on the board. What is the offense's biggest strength and weakness?

Biggest strength is RB Ralph Webb, who finds a way to turn broken plays into six-yard gains several times every game. He's currently second in the SEC in rushing yards, trailing only Kamryn Pettway, so you know he's good.

Biggest weakness is anything related to the passing game. Kyle Shurmur has improved as a quarterback and often avoids mistakes (which KILLED last year's oft-starter Johnny McCrary), but he still struggles to make plays downfield and his receivers don't help him out much with their litany of drops. He has the tools to be a good SEC quarterback, but his coaches tend not to do him any favors with their conservative play calling.

3) Y'all have beaten UGA more recently than we have (and I think y'all have even beat them about as often as we have in the last 10 years). Remind me again how awesome that is. I'm hoping we get the same feeling in a week, but still.

It was strange. It felt great to win, but you couldn't help but think Kirby Smart did everything he could to hand that game back to the Commodores. Still, it was inspiring to see a defensive stand that represented all the good things about this team. And it was even better to ruin UGA's homecoming.

4) This is Year 3 of Derek Mason's tenure at Vanderbilt. What's the feeling around the program about how he's been doing?

Feelings are...mixed. There isn't a ton of optimism around Mason's ceiling as a SEC head coach, but he has the team trending upward in terms of winning games, at the very least. However, that seems like more a product of a weak SEC East than any real improvements outside of the team's defense. One more win in 2016 pretty much guarantees him another season in Nashville, but that may be all but sealed after beating Georgia on the road. Whether or not fans are excited about that is less certain; the Commodores' inability to grow as an offense in the past three years doesn't reflect well on Mason or his ability to excel at a position above coordinator.

5) How do you see this game playing out? Personally, I think the spread is a bit much. I expect Auburn's defense will be able to stop Vanderbilt's offense, but I'm not sure Auburn's offense will be able to score that many more points on the stout Vandy D.

I also think +26 is a bit high; Vanderbilt has played SEC teams tough this season...but they've all been from the East, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I don't think the offense will be able to stay on the field long enough for the defense to recover properly on the sideline, and that will turn an early one-possession game into a 4th-quarter blowout. Auburn 10, Vandy 3 at the half; Auburn 34, Vanderbilt 10 at the final gun.